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Neil's Notebook: Senior Night Script Has Happy Ending

Drew Palmisano

Feb. 19, 2012

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By Neil Koepke, staff writer

Drew Palmisano couldn't have written a better script for Michigan State's Senior Night on Saturday at Munn Arena.

First, Palmisano got the start in goal, his first in the last six games

Second, he never saw a red light blink behind him all game.

And third, he played a key role in the Spartans completing a weekend sweep and improving their position in the CCHA standings and hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth.

Palmisano, a 5-foot-10, 160-pounder senior from Ann Arbor, stopped all 27 Alaska shots and earned his sixth career shutout as the Spartans defeated the Nanooks 3-0 in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 6,916.

With the win, its fifth in the last six games, MSU (18-12-4 overall, 13-10-3 overall) remained in fourth place in the CCHA, three points in back of second-place Michigan and one behind third-place Western Michigan, with two games left next weekend at Notre Dame.

With sophomore goaltender Will Yanakeff playing at a high level, Palmisano has served as the backup in nine of the Spartans' previous 10 games.

But Palmisano showed no signs of rust or lacking in confidence on Saturday, as he made several huge saves in the first two periods before MSU took control with two late goals in the middle period.

"When you don't play for a while, you get kind of frustrated but you have to stay positive and work hard in practice,'' Palmisano said. "So when my number is called, I'll be ready, and I use it to show the coaches that I want to be in the net every night.''

Palmisano, whose last start was in a 4-3 loss at Ferris State on Jan. 28, said he was a little nervous at the start because of the pregame festivities, which included the nine seniors taking the traditional senior skate around the rink and greeting family on the visitors bench.

It's quite an emotional moment for the seniors, the team and the fans.

"It sometimes messes with a goalie's routine but I got into the game early, felt out the crowd and our team played well in front of me,'' Palmisano said. "Someday, we'll look back on this, all nine of us, and it'll be a special moment when we're older.''

Asked where the shutout, in MSU's final regular-season home game and maybe final contest at Munn for the season, ranks on his list of greatest moments as a Spartan, Palmisano already had it slotted in.

"1-A next to beating Michigan a couple of times,'' he said. "It's going to be something special and I'll never forget this.''

Other seniors that were introduced before the game and took the skate include defensemen Matt Crandell, Brock Shelgren, Tim Buttery and A.J. Sturges and forwards Brett Perlini, Trevor Nill, Mike Merrifield and Daultan Leveille. Also honored was senior manager Sean Lerg, the brother of former Spartan forward Bryan Lerg and cousin of ex- MSU goalie Jeff Lerg.

The only senior to get a point on Saturday was Perlini, who assisted MSU's third goal.

The Spartans got goals from a junior, sophomore and a freshman.

Dean Chelios, a junior left winger, tapped in loose puck in the crease at 12:51 of the first period. Palmisano was formidable in keeping his team in a one-goal lead in the first two periods before MSU struck for two late second-period goals.

Freshman Tanner Sorenson deflected junior defenseman Torey Krug's rising shot from the top of the right circle past UAF goalie Scott Greenham at 15:58 to boost the Spartans' lead to 2-0. Two minutes and 9 seconds later, sophomore Lee Reimer's shot from inside the right circle hit the top corner of the net on a power play to make it 3-0. The goal, Reimer's ninth, ended his 15-game drought.

Junior center Anthony Hayes, who had an assist on Sorenson's goal, along with Krug, said he wasn't surprised by the way Palmisano handled the situation of not playing much recently and coming up big in an important game.

"Drew is one of the hardest-working guys on our team. He's led by example since the day he stepped on campus,'' Hayes said. "I can't speak enough about the kid. Regardless of not playing in (the last) five games, he came to the rink giving 100 percent 100 percent of the time.

"None of us in the locker room are surprised by his performance. We've come to expect that out of him. It's the cherry on top that he could do it on Senior Night.''

Coach Tom Anastos also was impressed by Palmisano's play and the way his teammates played in front of him.

"He's had a good season. He's been practicing well and he's got good competition going on between him and Will Yanakeff,'' Anastos said. "He was ready to play and I thought our players would play hard for him. He's a leader on our team. It was great that he got the shutout on Senior Night.''

Anastos called the sweep of the 10th-place Nanooks (12-17-4, 8-16-4-2) "mission accomplished."

"We were concerned about this week and our goal was to find a way to get sox points, something we felt we needed, going into the last weekend of the season. It was a much better effort tonight, across the board.

The Spartans defeated Alaska 3-2 in overtime in the series opener on Friday, but didn't really play well until the third period.

"We were a little out of sync in the first period (on Saturday),'' Anastos said. "Alaska did a good job in establishing the forecheck and putting a lot more pressure on our defense than I wanted,'' Anastos said. "We changed things up a bit in the second period. We put a little more emphasis in making sure we got pucks deep, and putting pressure on their defense. That resulted in a lot of scoring chances.''

The last time the Spartans had a game in hand entering the final period was on Dec. 2 at Munn Arena - a 5-1 victory over Bowling Green in which MSU held a 4-1 edge after 40 minutes. The team has played 20 games which have been decided by one goal or less. The Spartans are 7-9 in one-goal contests and they've played in four ties.

"In the second and third periods, I felt good. It was the first period I didn't like,'' Anastos said. "I didn't know how our guys were going to respond coming off the pregame ceremonies. Their guys jumped out pretty quick and I was hoping we could weather the storm and get some rhythm going. Then we scored and that good. I was happy to be up by a goal going into the first intermission.''

KRUG EXCELS: Defenseman Torey Krug on Saturday didn't dominate like he sometimes does, but still had an outstanding game. He had two assists and boosted his point streak to seven games. He has four goals and nine assist for 13 points in the last seven contests.

Krug shares the CCHA scoring lead in league play with Notre Dame forward T.J. Tynan. Krug has 10 goals and 28 points in 26 league games. Tynan has eight goals and 28 points.

In CCHA overall play, Krug is fourth in scoring with 10 goals and 31 assists.

CCHA DOWN TO THE WIRE: Four of the top five teams in the league won on Saturday so it didn't change the standings that much.Top-ranked Ferris State swept Bowling Green, 5-1 and 4-1, to remain in first place with 53 points, six in front of Michigan, now in second place after a 4-2, 4-3 in overtime sweep of NMU.

With the win, its fifth in the last six games, MSU (18-12-4 overall, 13-10-3-2 CCHA) remained in fourth place in the CCHA, three points in back of second-place Michigan and one behind third-place Western Michigan, with two games left next weekend at Notre Dame.The Broncos are two points up on the fourth-place Spartans, who can't win the regular-season title but can finish as high as second and no lower than sixth.

Miami, which swept Notre Dame, 3-1 and 4-1, is in fifth place with 42 points, two behind MSU, one head of sixth-place LSSU and three up on Ohio State.

Next weekend, No. 4 MSU (44 points) plays at No. 8 Notre Dame (36); No. 2 Michigan (47) is at No. 11 BGSU (19), No. 8 Northern Michigan (36) plays host to No. 6 LSSU (41) , No. 5 Miami (42) is home to No. 7 OSU (39) on Friday and visits Columbus on Saturday, and Ferris State and LSSU also play a home-and-home series - Friday in Kalamazoo and Saturday in Big Rapids.

The top five teams receive byes in the first round of the playoffs. The remaining six teams play best-of-three series March 2-4, with No. 6 hosting No. 11 BGSU, No. 7 home against No. 10 Alaska and the No. 8 seed getting home ice vs. the No. seed.

STATS UPDATE: Rookie Tanner Sorenson scored his first goal at Munn Arena in the second period to give his team a 2-0 lead. He also had an assist on Dean Chelios' tap-in goal in the first period. Sorenson, who from Anchorage and celebrated his 19th birthday on Friday, last scored on Dec. 30 against Michigan in the title game of the GLI. . . . Chelios on Saturday played in his 100th game at MSU. He has seven goals and seven assists for 14 points this season and 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 career points. . . . Krug leads MSU in scoring with 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points, one more than Lee Reimer, who has nine goals and 21 assists for 30 points.



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